Smells like school spirit: Proud alums name son Mason

Sure, Mason Markowski’s college application deadline may not be looming, but with his first name and a pair of devoted Mason Gross alums for parents, we’re betting Mason will consider channeling his Scarlet Pride and become a member of the class of 2037.

As Kristen (Conrad) Markowski and Stephen Markowski tell it, when Mason was born in September, friends and family weren’t even surprised when the music education alumni announced their first-born’s name.

The real conundrum: deciding between naming their son after Henry Rutgers, a Revolutionary War hero and philanthropist for which the university is named, or Mason Welch Gross, the beloved 16th president of the university.

Ultimately, Kristen says, Mason “had a little bit more connection to both of us. Although Rutgers is where we met, Mason Gross was such an important part of our lives.”

The couple met at orientation and became fast friends.

“From the second we met, as corny as it sounds, we were like: ‘This is the person who’s going to be trouble,’ ” Kristen recalls. “I knew he was someone who was going to be very important in my life.”

In 2013, the couple made it official: They got hitched at Voorhees Chapel and had their wedding photos taken at High Point Solutions Stadium.

When Kristen became pregnant, Stephen began delving into the histories of Henry Rutgers and Mason Gross.

“What Gross did for education, for us as teachers, the things he stood for, and the changes he made within the university at a really trying time, these are things Mason can look up to when he’s older,” he says.

Gross, a committed educator, taught philosophy courses every semester of his tenure as president, from 1959 to 1971, and was known as a staunch defender of academic freedom, so much so that in 1966 the American Association of University Professors presented the university with the Alexander Meiklejohn Award for Academic Freedom. Gross was also broadly recognized as a calming presence on campus during a period of upheaval.

As for little Mason, who knows? Eighteen years from now, he just might just be strolling into Marryott Music Building for a music education class. After all, the 5-month-old has already begun noodling on his toy xylophone.

“He loves it,” Kristen says. “I don’t know if he realizes what he’s doing, but he loves the sound.”

Posted February 2016